Wallis & Futuna islanders drive flashy 4WDs to and from their taro fields and enjoy satellite TV at night after a beer or maybe some kava. Free education and health and dental care here are propped up by French euros, but traditional island language, culture and intricate coutume (customs) have remained remarkably intact here.
Beneath the French umbrella, traditional royal hierarchies still hold sway. The islands maintain three kingdoms (royaumes coutumiers): Sigave, on the western side of Futuna; Alo, on Alofi and on the eastern side of Futuna; and Uvea, on Wallis. Today, all three kingdoms live in peaceful, if quite competitive, harmony with each other.
Interestingly, there are an estimated 17,000 Wallis & Futuna islanders living in New Caledonia – more than remain in Wallis & Futuna itself – plus a few thousand more living in France.
Wallis and Futuna are rather different environments. For starters, Wallis is flat-ish, rising gradually to 145m above sea level, while Futuna is peaky, jutting up to 524m. Wallis has a lagoon and barrier reef, but Futuna has craggy shores and is sans lagoon (to dip into local parlance). But both islands are green, green, green, with more than 3m of annual rainfall dumping on locals' rooftops. Aside from fairly regular tropical cyclone events in summer, Futuna sits near a collision point between underlying tectonic plates and is prone to earthquakes.